My Favourite Disney Shorts

I think people tend to recall Disney's feature-length films before their shorts, which is really a shame. While the short film work of Pixar and Warner Bros is celebrated at every turn, and for good reason, Disney has made some fantastic shorts, packing real emotional punch and gorgeous animation. There's way more to plumb here than just Steamboat Willie! These are a few of my favourites.

The Little Match Girl (2006)

This little-known short can be found on the two-disc edition of The Little Mermaid, as the two pieces share a common source material- the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. That said, this completely deserves its own release, or at least a release within a combo pack of shorts. It needs more exposure.

This is one of the most heart-wrenching pieces of Disney animation I've ever seen, topping even the death of Mufasa in The Lion King. There's no words or foley, just a beautiful violin piece composed by Alexandr Borodin. The colours are muted until the little match girl starts striking her precious ware in the vain hope of warmth, and that's also when the waterworks start. Because you will cry watching this. Guaranteed. The fact that it's set on Christmas only makes it sadder...

The Whale Who Wanted To Sing At The Met (1946)

With ridiculous aplomb, opera singer Nelson Eddy provided all the voices in this short, and his performance really has to be heard to be believed. The unbelievable and outlandish story of a whale who has a beautiful singing voice premiered in the 1946 amalgam film Make Mine Music, but really stands on its own. The music is great, as I've said, and the animation is first-rate Disney, with special attention to colour, emotion, and action.

Der Fuehrer's Face (1943)

Apologies for the swastikas...
This short is a fascinating historical document and a well-put-together short. I find the laughs are timed well, and the political caricatures are done just wonderfully. Also, I have an inordinate pleasure of watching Donald Duck fail and suffer. It's one of my favourite things.

Destino (released 2003)

This is one of the most interesting could-have-been's in the history of Disney animation. Surrealist Salvador Dali apparently started storyboarding Destino with Walt Disney and his animators in the late forties; because of the studio's financial issues, the project was scrapped.

The short that was released in 2003 is based on the work that they did together as well as Dali's singular style. It's interesting, but I think I like it more for what it represents than what it is. At times the animation seems kind of video-gameish, and feels more like early Dreamworks than Disney. That said, there are gorgeous moments in Destino, and it really makes me want more.

The Prince and the Pauper (1990)

This short was shown before the main feature of The Rescuers Down Under in theatres, and I think it's released that way on the VHS, too. It's a really well-done short film; action-packed, funny, and musical in the half-hour that it runs. Mickey Mouse and the gang are playing characters, and for those of you who are fans, Clarabelle Cow makes an appearance here. The story, adapted from Mark Twain's of the same name, is timeless and great fun to watch unfold.

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